Saturday, November 12, 2011

Anatolian Spaghetti Western?

How did this happen? I'll trace it back to its beginnings.

I'm watching on Youtube trailers of the 1969 version of the Turkish film 'Ac Kurtlar'. It looks, for all intents and purposes, to be an Anatolian 'spaghetti western' in the snow. There are no subtitles, but then there's almost no dialogue, just shooting. Fascinating, but not something I would normally watch. Still, it has served its purpose. I now have an image in my brain for 'Memed My Hawk'.

Turkish author Yashar Kemal's 'Memed My Hawk' reads like Alexandre Dumas at his best. I'm only about a third of the way into it, but it's of the 'hard to put down' variety. It was recommended to me by a Turkish friend after I asked him about Ibrahim the Mad, a sort of Turkish Caligula. I had just finished reading (in English translation, of course) a particularly touching and humane play about him by A. Turan Oflazoglu, published in "Ibrahim the Mad and Other Plays: An Anthology of Modern Turkish Drama, Volume One."

Here my memory gets kind of vague. I must have come across Ibrahim the Mad after reading A.L. Kroeber's translation of a fascinating biography of Mehmed the Conqueror (no relation, as far as I know, to the Memed of 'Memed My Hawk'), written by the Byzantine Greek Kritoboulos shortly after his (Memed the Conqueror's) conquest of Constantinople. At that time I was reading many Muslim chronicles, histories from a different perspective. Many memorable works, including 'The History of the Seljuq Turks,' Kenneth Allin Luther's translation of the 12th century 'Saljuq-nama'.

But my guess is my long-term interest in Turkish literature started with 'The Book Dede Korkut', a rare success for the overwhelmingly ridiculous "If you liked that book, you may also like..." recommendations online book stores regularly make. "Tales of a Thousand Nights and a Night" continues to be a major influence on what I read and how, so this similar compilation of tales, with recognizable references to, and variations on, the tales of Sinbad and Odysseus, as well as some completely unique tales, caught my interest immediately.

That, as near as I can figure, is why I have been watching trailers for Anatolian spaghetti westerns of the 60s on Youtube lately.

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